Endurance Training is by far the favorite subject of mountain bikers everywhere. No matter what they ride or where they are from, more riders want to know how to improve their endurance than just about anything else.

And for good reason. Endurance Training is the most specific of all of the physical qualities you can train and represents the pinacle of the Sports Specific Triangle. It don’t matter how much flexibility, strength or speed you have if you can’t sustain it on the trail where it matters most.

But this has also lead to a lot of confusion about Endurance Training, especially as it relates specifically to us as mountain bikers. Like I’ve pointed out before, the term “cyclist” is usually just a code word for “road riding” and no where does this matter more than when picking an Endurance Training Program.

In this new podcast I go over everything you need to know about Endurance Training for mountain biking. You’ll learn why it isn’t the same thing as cardio training, what the most valuable cardio training you can do is and some tips to help you pick the right Endurance Training program for you.

Endurance Training is the most important part of your training program but it has to be built on a solid foundation of flexibility, strength and speed. You also have to make sure you aren’t falling into the trap of doing more and more cardio instead of focusing on improving the quality of the cardio you are doing.

When you get it right, though, the right approach to Endurance Training can make a huge impact on your riding. Hopefully the info and tips in this podcast will help you find the right approach for you.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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Speed Training is an interesting topic for mountain biking because it isn’t really a part of many programs. Early on in training mountain bikers I realized that few of them had the ability to truly “tap into 100%” and that this was holding them back in a lot of different ways.

Speed Training isn’t just doing some intervals as part of your cardio program and needs to be looked at and trained as a separate element. It can help improve your endurance, help you more easily power through tough efforts on the trail and as well as help you get faster when you need to lay down some power to the pedals.

As you can see, it can do a lot for you and should be part of your program this off-season. But if you’re like most riders you probably have a few questions like how is Speed Training different from just doing some intervals and what is the best way to use it as a mountain biker.

And that is why I put this podcast together for you. In it you’ll learn more about how Speed Training can help you as a rider and how you can use it to improve your speed and endurance on the trail.

Here are the notes from this podcast…

- Most sports have a speed training aspect where they focus on the ability to quickly produce power in the shortest amount of time possible.

- It requires the ability to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible while also maintain the most efficient postures and movement patterns.

- This ability to tap into 100% is a skill most mountain bikers lack and so they are waste a lot of energy when they try to do it on the trail.

- Speed training helps us tap into more muscle fibers which, like strength training, makes more of them available for endurance.

- Speed training also reinforces proper posture and movement habits since speed increases the stress on the system, magnifying the cracks that don’t show up as much at slower speeds.

- While most people think of fast movements for speed training, trying to move a heavy load quickly also results in improved power and speed.

- This is important because we need this ability to quickly push against resistance to sprint or grind through a higher gear – a lot of trail riding takes place below 80 rpms and this needs to be trained.

- Speed can be trained on the bike or in the gym with power exercises like the Swing, DB Cheat Curl and Push Press. These are especially useful for working on “high tension” speed.

- While power is a huge part of speed it isn’t the same thing as Power Training.

- Speed training and speed endurance training are different and need to be trained differently.

- Speed training requires a relatively fresh nervous system for maximum muscle recruitment.

- Speed endurance training should focus on maintaining a certain speed/ effort level instead of just surviving the workout.

- Start with working to improve your speed early in the off-season before working on speed endurance closer to the riding season.

- In general, anything over 60 seconds isn’t Speed Training and is starting to get into Endurance Training.

- Speed Training is going to be relative to the distance you usually ride with longer distance riders able to use longer sprints.

- Every riders should spend some time working on true speed with intervals less than 10 seconds.

- Unless you are a 4X/ Dual Slalom rider then Speed Training shouldn’t be a big part of your program, perhaps 1-2 days a week for 8-12 weeks in the off-season and 1 session every 7-14 days during the season. But it is an important part of your training program and without it you have a gap in your fitness which will effect everything else.

As you can see Speed Training can help you in a lot of different ways so make sure you aren’t neglecting it this off-season. If you have any questions or thoughts about Speed Training for mountain biking be sure to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear them.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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Strength Training has a long and interesting history in the world of sports. It wasn’t long after people started competing with each other that they figured out lifting heavy stuff made it easier to beat your opponent. From ancient Greeks to Roman Gladiators to the modern super-athlete, getting stronger has played a role in the success of countless athletes through the ages.

But while getting stronger has long been recognized as a way to get better at your sport there are still a lot of riders who are confused about how to best use it. And no wonder – you can hear a lot of conflicting and confusing advice.

On one hand you have those who tell us that strength training isn’t important and that you don’t need it. They say that there is no proof that getting stronger helps your performance on the trail. Some go so far as to claim that it can actually decrease your performance.

On the other hand you have those who tell you that Strength Training is one of the most important things you can do as a rider. They say that you need to focus a lot of your time and energy in the gym getting stronger. Some of these people go so far as to focus most of a rider’s time and energy trying to build a better mountain biker in the gym.

So which is it? Do you need to avoid strength training or do you need to focus a lot of time and energy on it? What are the real advantages of it for us as riders? And how do you make the best use of it this off-season?

Well, I’m glad you asked. In this podcast I answer those questions and more, giving you the lowdown on why you should strength train and how to get maximum transfer from the gym to the trail.

In this podcast I cover…

1 – Myths and misunderstandings about Strength Training.

    - What is Strength Training?
    - Does strength training improve our performance?
    - How much time and energy should you devote to strength training?

2 – Benefits of Strength Training.
    - It teaches the body to move more efficiently.
    - It allows the body to access more motor units for Speed/ Power and Endurance training.
    - It is one of the best ways to prevent overuse injuries.

3 – How to use Strength Training as a mountain biker.
    - Focus on training the basic human movements and filling in gaps.
    - Focus on improving your 80% efforts instead of constantly hammering the 100%.
    - Don’t turn strength training into cardio training.
    - Basic workout template and periodization schemes (Rep Ladders, 5/3/2, Complex Circuits)

There’s a ton of great info in this podcast, you’ll learn all of my top Strength Training tips and strategies to help you develop the strength base this off-season that you need to ride strong all season long. If you have any questions about Strength Training or about off-season training in general please feel free to post them below, I’m here to help out if I can.

And in my next post I’ll go over Power/ Speed Training. The ability to quickly recruit your muscles in a highly coordinated manner is essential to being able to pick up speed quickly or power over obstacles. In other words, being able to tap into and repeat a true 100% effort, which is something a lot of riders seem to struggle with on the trail.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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Flexibility Training is probably the least understood out of all of the 5 Essential Elements of MTB Training. It is one of those things that we know we need as part of our program but we rarely spend the time and effort needed to real results.

It seems that all of the other elements of training are always “more important” and we skip Flexibility Training to fit more of them in. So why is it that even though we know that being inflexible isn’t helping us on or off the bike but we don’t spend more time working on it?

Over the years I’ve found that there are 3 reasons most riders don’t make better use of this important element of training.

First, they might have heard that they don’t need it or that it can actually decrease your performance. Second, they don’t understand the real benefits of it so they don’t buy into it enough to spend the time and energy needed. And last, most rides simply don’t know how to make the best use of Flexibility Training.

So in this podcast I try to clear these things up so you can make better use of this powerful training tool. In it I go over:

1 – Myths and misunderstandings about flexibility training
    - What is flexibility training?
    - What is the difference between flexibility and mobility?
    - Why stretching will not make you weaker.
    - Why it is hard to stretch too much and become hyper flexible.

2 – Benefits of flexibility training
    - It is one of the only ways to work on decreasing muscle tension.
    - Flexibility is the foundation for efficient movement.
    - It is a good indication of how free of excess tension you hold.
    - It is one of the best ways to prevent overuse injuries.

3 – How to use flexibility training as a mountain biker.
    - You’ll need to watch the video/ listen to the podcast to find out…

Don’t make the mistake that so many riders make and skip over this important elements of training. It is especially important that you prioritize it now during the off-season so that you can restore the body from all of the riding you have been doing and set yourself up for a high performance, injury free season next year.

If you have any questions about Flexibility Training or about off-season training in general please feel free to post them below, I’m always happy to help out. And in my next post I’ll go over Strength
Training and how you can make sure you get the most transfer from the gym to the trail, including how improving your strength can directly impact your endurance.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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With the end of the riding season fast approaching it is time to start thinking about your plans for this off-season's training. How you ride and perform next season depends on what you do in the off-season, making it a critical part in making sure see the kind of progress you want.

While most riders would agree with this, few of them have a solid plan to help them achieve it. And out of those riders that do have a plan I usually see two mistakes that hold them back.

In this podcast I go over the basics parts of a periodization plan and how to maximize your results from it by avoiding two common mistakes. No matter what training program you plan on using this off-season this podcast will help you get the most out of it.

Until next time...

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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Last week I took my family to Glenwood Springs, which is a small town in the mountains about an hour and a half from where I live. One of the main attractions is the Glenwood Adventure Park and Caverns, which is a small amusement park set atop one of the peaks overlooking Glenwood.

They have some really fun rides that add in the twist of making you feel like you are going to fall off a cliff. Their signature ride is a giant swing set next to a 200 foot cliff that swings you out and has you staring straight down the cliff. Even though you know you won’t die your “lizard brain” has a hard time believing it, making for a terrifying and fun experience.

The park itself has a western theme and as part of it they had a blacksmith shop set up. My little boy Z was mesmerized by the process of taking a lump of metal and turning it into a finished object. While Z was paying more attention to the fire and hammering (which was pretty cool) I noticed a pattern to his work.

He had two distinct phases to his work. The first was the taking the raw lump of metal and pounding it into the basic shape he wanted. He then switched gears and started using different tools and methods  to refine the basic shape into the specifics of what he wanted.

This reminded me of a saying in strength training about “forging the blade vs. sharpening the edge”. This saying is used to remind people that there are in fact two distinct phases of training. This pattern applies to a lot of things during a montain bikers career and failing to recognize it can make it hard to improve.

In this new episode of the MTB Strength Coach Podcast I look at 3 areas that you can apply this philosophy, which are:

- Your development as a rider over your career

- Your skills development

- Your annual training plan

As you’ll learn in the podcast this concept can be used to help you make smarter training decisions based on your needs. You’ll also be able to better understand how workout programs you come across fit into the grand scheme of things better as well. What works for one rider may not work for you and knowing what you need will help you avoid blindly following the wrong plan.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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One of my favorite guys to hear speak in the fitness industry is Gray Cook, one of the guys behind the Functional Movement Screen. Gray has an amazing way of putting complex concepts into simple, easy to understand terms that I really admire.

The other day I was driving around listening to a recorded presentation he had done when he dropped another gem -

Perception drives movement function and movement function drives perception.

This is a very profound concept that I have understood for a while but had trouble explaining to riders. It is so important, though, because it explains how your equipment and bike set up can negatively change how you perform without you even realizing it.

This blog post is a combination article/ podcast. I have posted my notes from my podcast below, you can read them and get a good feel for what I am trying to explain. However, I get into more detail on the podcast and I encourage you to listen to it first before drawing too many conclusions from the notes.

- How your brain interprets things will determine how you are able to move.

- How you are able to move will determine how your brain inteprets things.

- Ties into the Physical and Mental Confidence concept of how your brain percieves things will affect your mental confidence.

- Your brain interprets things on 2 levels 1) conscious and 2) sub-conscious.

- The first is what you actually think/ what the voice in your head is telling you.

- The second takes place below our conscious percpetion and there is no way that we know exactly what it is thinking, however what it is thinking has an effect an what we are thinking and how we can perform.

- Example:

Imagine that I ask you to do a regular squat with your feet shoulder width apart, weight distributed evenly on your feet and standing on a solid surface.

Now imagine that I ask you to do a squat with your feet in the same position but now I want you to balance on the balls of your feet and to stand on a surface with no lateral friction.

I’m sure you can imagine yourself having a much harder time with the second scenario. No matter how much your practice and how comfortable you are in that position your brain will percieve the less stable position and shut down the strenght and power to  the legs – you will never be able to produce as much strength or power in the second scenario.

The only thing that changed was the brains perception of where you were in space and how stable you were. So your peception drove your movement function (how well you could squat).

- Example 2:

Imagine that I have a rider who wants to learn how to jump on his bike. Right now he has no hip hinge – he can’t touch his toes and is unable to drive movement from his hips and not his lower back.

I can explain to him all day long how to jump but because he lacks the fundamental movement needed to drive the skill it will feel and seem impossible to him. Because of this, small jumps will intimidate them because of the lack of consistency and general feeling of not being balanced in the air.

Now, imagine that this rider has spent a few weeks (or months) working on their hip hinge and can not effectively move their hips forward and backwards while keeping a neutral spine. This time when they hit the jumps things will feel different. They will feel more consistent with their take-offs and stable in the air.

This increases their confidence and they end up seeing small jumps as relatively easy instead of intimidating. Suddenly the step up in the jump line doesn’t look as death defying as it once did. The process repeats intself until you are sailing over 40 footers with the greatest of steez…

- In both examples yoru performance was affected more by how you subconsciously percieved the situation and how you were able to move than anything else.

- One the bike you see this in a few areas…

1) Clipless pedals. These are like balancing on your toes and standing on a suface with no lateral fiction (essentially what pedal float is). I did a podcast interview with barefoot training expert Andy Clowers where he explained how the restrictions placed on the foot by clipless pedal shoes, the unnatural interface seen with pedal float and forefoot position all contributed to the brain perceiving a lot of bad things and shutting down balance and power as a result. The subconscious perception of your brain-foot connection will make it harder to shift the hips back, stand up to pedal and to remain stable when standing up to brake or descend.

2) Long stems. Pulling your shoulders so far forward slows down your steering, and makes the bike less stable when descending or standing up to pedal. Again, perception driving movement quality. The unbalanced position is recognized by your brain on a subconscious level and effects how well you can manuever your bike in all but the seated climbing position – which is the worst position for you to base your mountain bike set up on.

3) Too much seated pedaling. Most riders come into mountain biking with poor core strength, weak and dysfunctional hips and bad posture. Because of this standing up to pedal feels hard. However, once you address those weaknesses and learn how to apply better movement to the bike you will find that standing up doesn’t feel nearly as hard. In fact, it can become your go-to pedaling position when you need to climb or lay down power. In this case your movement quality drove your perception. When the movements your needed to stand up and pedal weren’t there it felt extremely hard but once you improved your movement quality your could get into more efficient positions and it didn’t feel as hard.

That’s it for now, hope this post and podcast gave you something to think about. Make sure that you aren’t unknowingly holding yourself back by messing with your subconscious perception and movement function and you’ll find riding to be a much more enjoyable experience.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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One of the things I love about strength training is that it has such a powerful affect on every type of athlete. Far from something that only benefits those who rely on strength and power, even endurance athletes need it in their program.

However, one of the knocks against strength training for mountain biking is that it is really only for Downhillers and Freeriders. A lot of riders know that they should be doing it but pass it up in favor of more cardio training since they need endurance more than strength.

Or so they think.

The truth is that even Triathletes and Century Road Riders find that adding some smart strength and mobility training to their overall program delivers much better results than just adding more and more riding and cardio training.

In this new edition of the MTB Strength Coach Podcast I talk with fellow strength coach Al Painter of Integrate Performance Fitness. Coach Al works with mainly triathletes and century road cyclists, as well as some mountain bikers, using a lot of the same principles and influences I do.

What Coach Al and his clients have found is that getting stronger has helped them ride longer, faster and avoid a lot of the overuse injuries that traditionally plague riders who log as many miles as they do.

It is an interesting look at how someone applies a lot of the things I talk about to true endurance athletes and how a lot of mountain bikers who see themselves as “endurance athletes” can learn something from their experience.

Coach Al and I cover a lot of ground on this podcast, including…

- Flat pedals, how they require a different pedaling style than clipless pedals and how that helps your pedal stroke when you do use clipless pedals. BTW, Coach Al rides clipless pedals most of the time but has found using flats to help his overall riding so he has some really interesting insights into the whole subject.

- Using diagonal patterns in training to reset the system. Too much sitting turns things off and these exercises are the best way to get them turned back on.

- How strength training helps reduce injuries while also improving endurance.

- How training the foot will help improve performance and reduce aches and pains.

- Some of our common influences and how we are able to apply them to our programs for different types of athletes.

- Plus much more…

If you liked this podcast please click one of the Like or Share buttons to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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In this podcast I go over some ways to increase the difficulty of an exercise without adding sets and reps. This is very valuable if you train at home and have a limited amount of weight or are rehabbing an injury and need ways to increase strength without using a lot of weight yet.

I've also been getting a lot of questions about improving your ability to climb and so I also touch on some tips to help you climb faster and with less fatigue.

Until next time...

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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Riders that engage in Cross Training tend to perform better and incur fewer injuries, making it a popular subject for riders who want to improve. But if you don’t understand the 2 Levels of Cross Training then you can actually start to create more problems.

In this episode of the MB Strength Coach Podcast I go into the subject of Cross Training and how you can use it to help you ride faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail.

If you have any questions on it please post them in the comments below this blog post. And if you liked this podcast please click one of the Like or Share buttons below to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

p.s. Here are the notes from this podcast…

- Cross Training is a catch all term that is used to describe anything done outside of your sport.

- Not all Cross Training is created equal and you need two types.

- The first type is basic movement and strength training geared towards improving your specific weaknesses and improving the things you need for your primary sport. This is the level that addresses your basic human movement and function and lays the athletic foundation you need to be a better rider.

- The second type is another way to use your fitness besides your primary sport, preferably something that uses different movement patterns like hiking, trail running, skiing, climbing, BJJ, etc. This level helps keep your movement vocabulary broad by exposing your body to movements skills outside of your primary sport and reinforces your movement base.

- One of the main goals of Cross Training is to restore and maintain balance in an effort to improve long term performance through fewer overuse injuries. This means that just doing different types of cycling is not really Cross Training.

- A good Cross Training program would have you doing 2-3 days of targeted mobility and strength work along with 1-2 days of an alternate activity.

- The first type of Cross Training is the most important and if you have to choose one then it is the best one to focus on. Participating in some other activity is better than nothing but will often lead to other overuse injuries and weaknesses.

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